Chelsea Shag proves confidence in yourself can produce an incredible sound
There's no easy way to define Chelsea Shag's sound. It's a mix of blues, soul, funk and hip hop all combined into a special talent that is bursting with energy.
The Canadian native moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 1996, and it's clear the southeastern city has had an impact on her sound.
With ATL as the "hip-hop center of gravity", producing acts like Usher, Ludacris, Ciara and Janelle Monáe, Shag has stepped into the fray delivering a unique fusion of sound.
She first picked up the guitar at age eleven and hasn't since. After studying jazz at the Atlanta Institute of Music, Shag continued to combine her classical training with the sounds and melodies she was picking up around her.
Shag proves familiarity with an instrument combined with a clear definition of who she is in her lyrics and melodies can make an artist stand apart. We sat down with Shag to talk about songwriting, pre-show traditions and how she remains true to herself.
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How did you first get your start in music?
Well, it started since I could remember, singing in the back of my mom's car. Just picking up random instruments and listening to music, but I started playing guitar when I was eleven, and that's like when I decided I wanted to be a "rockstar". I didn't really know what that I meant but I just wanted to perform even though I had no experience and I didn't know what I was doing. I just wanted to do that.
What was the inspiration behind your album, 'Colors'?
Definitely personal relationships, my love life and just my love for music. I wanted to make something funky and soulful. This album is really about the beginning of my career and just feeling free and independent.
So what's your favorite thing about performing live?
My favorite thing, is well, I love connecting with my musicians, my guys, but really feeling like a release and just being able to be wild on stage and perform. That's just a lot of fun for me. It's just a blast.
Do you have a certain thing you like to do when your perform live, like a tradition?
I always want to make sure I take deep breaths like right before I get on stage. I want to feel as free spirited as I can, and I want people to feel that vibe from me. There's something wild about the guitar solos it's kind of how my mood is or the vibe is. So it's like, I just want to feel wild on stage.
What is your songwriting process like?
Every song is so different. Sometimes I'll be driving down the road, and I'll come up with a melody in my head and start recording it. That's like how an idea will start. Or sometimes I'll take a rhythm I am obsessed with and write to that. Or if I'm really, really feeling something emotional words will just come out and the melody will just come out with a guitar riff or something. It's like a puzzle. Like I take piece by piece and eventually I connect them together. So it could take a year to write a song, or it could take like a night to write a song.
What do you hope people take away from your music and you as a person?
I hope they feel driven to do something they wouldn't usually do, like if they are fearful about something I hope they are like, 'Wow! She's doing that. Like okay, I can do what I need to do.' Or feel inspired to be themselves. Fearlessness and with happiness on their face.
What do you think is the hardest thing about being an artist?
I think something I struggled with the most was keeping the confidence to keep going because it can be really hard, and there's a lot of artists out there so it can be kind of intimidating. But just keep honing your craft.
What's your favorite song you've written or performed, and why?
I really love performing my song 'The Opposite of Two'. It's more jazzier. I really like to sing it, and the live version gets like really heavy at the end, and it's just like super fun. It's like my favorite guitar solo.
What's your favorite thing about touring?
It's my favorite thing ever. Just staying on the road. The guys I have with me we all laugh so much and have the best time. And we're like playing music every night, and that's the best thing ever. And every show gets tighter. We are more connected. Just the fact that we're getting out there is a really good feeling. I don't like staying in place very long. So traveling is just so enlightening, and you learn a lot about yourself which is fun.
What is the music scene like in Atlanta?
There's a lot of hip hop. There's a lot of R&B. There's a lot of underground bands that are really good that aren't really heard that much, but I mean, we've got awesome venues. People are very supportive of each other. And other artists love to support other artists.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Just keep doing what you're doing. You come off some natural, and you just need to be yourself. That's just so important to feel confident in who you are.
Do you think it's hard to be yourself in the music industry? How do you continue to try and be yourself?
Sometime you come across people that kind of make you like uncomfortable. That's happened to me a lot, but then I just kind of I lose that thought of, 'oh, what if I'm this or what if this and that'. The best thing to be is to be relaxed and be yourself because that will lead you to the right people that match your personality.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
You need to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Learn your craft, like play hours on end, and play any opportunity you have. Have a vision for yourself, and be patient because things take time. And you've just got to be patient with yourself.
What are your plans for the future? Where do you self in five years?
I just want to get as many fans as I can. I want to play big shows. I mean, every artist, I think, wants to win a Grammy -- that would be amazing. Just to be performing on big stages and to release more music and make that dough.
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